2019 Review: Defensive Backs & Safeties
Moving onto the second-to-last part of our 2019 positional recap, the Green Bay Packers actually enjoyed one of their better years from their defensive backfield. Led by stud Louisville cornerback Jaire Alexander, this unit was one of the best ones for Mike Pettine in ‘19.
Alexander and Kevin King were holding down the vast majority of the outside receivers last year, and ol’ reliable Tramon Williams showed out yet again as the main slot coverage man for GB. King was able to remain healthy this year, and going into the final year of his contract in 2020, it will be interesting to see which player we get to see.
For the safety group, free-agent signee Adrian Amos defected from the division-rival Chicago Bears and was a huge help on the backend, helping lead coverages and free up his safety counterpart, Darnell Savage, to play more of a roving role that saw him all around the field. While Amos was seen to be playing in the box as well, he was finally able to unleash his full abilities, something that never came to fruition with the Bears (surprise surprise).
For depth, this team relied on Chandon Sullivan, Josh Jackson, Raven Greene, Will Redmond, and Ka’dar Hollman in varying roles last season, and both Sullivan and Greene look to be slated to be getting larger roles in ‘20. On the flip side, the Packers continue to seem to not want to give Jackson a fair shake, even though his skills would suggest otherwise, but his NFL stats and tape have not been very forgiving to help boost his case.
Here are two elements that this position group will need to wary of moving into the ‘20 season.
Bring back Tramon – yes or no?
37 years young, Williams has been a great veteran for this defensive backfield and has easily slid into a role that does not necessarily require big-time plays or production out of him. But even in a reduced capacity, Williams continues to show up on tape and is ranked as one of the better slot corners in the league.
According to PFF, Williams graded out at 75.1, which in retrospect, compared to the best CB according to PFF (Richard Sherman), who put up an 88.9, Williams had a very solid ‘19 season. And for as cheap as he can be resigned, the team would seemingly have a no-brainer on their hands.
However, they would be best suited to wait until after the draft goes through, because if the team was to snag a stud early (Kristian Fulton, Grant Delpit [even though he is a safety], CJ Henderson, Trevon Diggs, Jeff Gladney, etc.), then Williams would not necessarily have a prominent role moving forward. Or even if a mid-round guy like Bryce Hall was selected, it may push the need to resign Williams much farther down the list.
But if they choose to select a developmental prospect later in the draft or not address the position at all, Williams would be a solid stop-gap guy to be brought back on a one-year deal for this next season.
The top prospects in the draft, along with Jeffrey Okudah of Ohio State, were previously listed, and while none of them should necessarily supersede addressing other needs, if they were to fall to 30th or 62nd overall, it would be not a bad idea to snatch them up.
Outside of that, an under-the-radar approach could be for the team to address would be to bring in a hybrid safety, someone like Antoine Winfield Jr. (Minnesota), Jeremy Chinn (Southern Illinois), or Ashtyn Davis (California). While that third safety addition would not be the biggest get for them, it could go a long way in opening up other avenues for the defense.
Hall, Jaylon Johnson, Damon Arnette, and Cameron Dantzler would all be solid mid-round additions for GB, and could help put a bow on the defensive back group, solving a long-running issue for Pettine.
This turned out to be one of the most solid groups for GB in ‘19, and all signs are (hopefully) pointing to that continuing into 2020. The health of King is the major pivot point for all things defensive, and if Alexander continues to wreak havoc on opponents’ best receivers, then the rest of the position group will get their chance to shine and make a name for themselves.
Mike Johrendt has been an avid fan of the Packers ever since he can remember. He is now a writer at PackersTalk and you can follow him on Twitter at @MJohrendt23